Med of the dayJon Haws recently launched a course earning more than $16,000 while also solving a widespread problem: nursing school doesn’t prepare students for the licensing exam. His online course has over 900 students enrolled and his podcast is downloaded around 30-40K times a month. Here’s how he did it:

Q: How did you get into nursing and course creation?
A: I was working in the business world and dreaded going to work 5 days a week and hated it, and then I learned about nursing being 3 days a week for full time and thought that I could do that with business on the side. I looked at it more and decided to go to nursing school.

It’s frustrating because in nursing school, teachers become teachers because they have experience in nursing, not in teaching. I got frustrated with my school. The teachers weren’t good teachers and I thought was a problem unique to my school…but I went to school in Illinois and then I came here to Dallas and I started to realize it was a huge problem in nursing.

Q: What was the one thing that made you want to create a course, and why Teachable?
A: The one thing that made me want to do a course was the frustration I experienced during nursing school. It got to the point where I withdrew for a year and I got agitated by it all, and then I realized it wasn’t just my school, it was a nationwide problem. That made me want to teach, to solve that real problem.

As far as Teachable, I knew I wanted to do some kind of bigger course to have a higher-end product that I could sell to my list. I investigated and I looked at a bunch of different course options and listened to Nick Loper’s podcast, Sidehustle Nation…he had an interview with your CEO Ankur Nagpal. The mission of Teachable - to make it simple to teach courses - kind of resonated with me. I checked it out while I was listening to the podcast and it was so easy to set up that I figured it was worth putting a course out there to see what it does.

Q: What were your first steps?
A: We started first with building up our list of people. Initially, we started with the books and that gave us the revenue to cut back at my job to build a list. I used targeted Facebook ads, and you can get so incredibly targeted it’s insane. With that I was able to get nursing students and struggling nursing students that were struggling with this or that, so I had a couple of really good resources that were free to download and used Leadpages on the website where they could get a free resource.

Once people signed up for that list, I let them know that I’d be sending updates now and then. A podcast I listened to mentioned having consistent emails once a week that keep you in touch with your audience. I started doing the Friday Freebies and every Friday at noon, I’d email my list and I’d give them a cheat sheet or free resource all created by me that applies to a piece of nursing or getting a job. That became expected.

But in very first email, I asked them the very direct question: What are you struggling with right now. I got that from Pat Flynn ( Honestly, I didn’t really think it would work, but I threw it in there at the end of the email and it works really really well. I’ve gotten a lot of responses and what that has done is allows us to decide what we’re going to do next.

We started a WordDoc where we copied every struggle that people would send to us and aggregated those. It turns out that pharmacology is what people are struggling with the most. And then I had a few instructors email us and say they liked our stuff. I tried to build relationships there and ask: what do your students need etc., and pharmacology kept popping up.

I started a podcast… where I’d do a daily medication. It’s just a 5-minute podcast every day where I talk about a different medication. People really love that. I thought I could incorporate it into my course and I partnered with a guy I went to school with and he has a degree in pharmacy so it worked out really really well.

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Q: Were you collecting email addresses when you were giving away this podcast?
A: Yes, yeah, well…

With the podcast it’s a little harder to get emails. Every now and then in the podcast I give away a free book or something, and say if people go here they’ll get a download of the book, but the Facebook ads worked best for building the list. But the podcast got the name out there, that we were trusted and that this was good stuff.

Q: Once you had your list built, did you do a soft launch, a hard launch, did you lead up to it with a series of emails?

A: The very first thing I did was build the course out and email a very small section of the group. I said that the first 35 [to sign up] would get it for free, just to see if it was in line with what people wanted. I got really good feedback and asked what would you pay for it, what’s a good price.
With students, they’re a really good market because they struggle with a lot and you can sell them a lot, but they’re poor. I knew I wouldn’t be able to charge a lot. The price came back and I said $35. I priced it really really low. Students said it was a great price and they’d use it. Right now we’re trying to build the name and get recognition as someone who gives good stuff.

We got a lot of good feedback from everybody. Some people said they would move stuff here or do this there and we made those changes.

That was a week or two before I sent an email to the entire list and said here’s this course and I’m giving 50% off until this date. I gave them a weekend to get it for 50% off.

Q: How many signups did you get?
A: Several hundred. If we had been charging a good price, we’d have done really really well. Currently, the course has 800-900 students in it.

Q: I noticed that your course is beautiful, striking and clean. Was it intentional? What importance do you place on visuals?
A:That is one thing that I’m still experimenting with. I’m trying to get everything as clean and crisp as possible and the logos and designs are still changing. With nursing specifically and with YouTube and the way that it is these days, you see that anyone can throw content out. Watching people make videos, well, it’s frustrating because they’re not always giving accurate content, but they’re getting out there and getting in front of people.

My goal is to make the audio clean, video clean, logos clean, everything clean, and of course have accurate content, to be more trustworthy.

I don’t want it to be me in front of a flip camera in house clothes talking about whatever. There’s too much of that out there. Automatically, having high quality makes you more trustworthy. But also, I’m not using insanely expensive equipment. I’m using Camtasia and a USB microphone.

Q: What are you currently doing to get people to stay and convert?
A: I don’t want to be the business… well, I don’t like salespeople. I don’t want to be pushy. I want to build a community of people who trust us because we’re giving them good information, and not email every week saying, “don’t forget to do this.” You know those lists you get on, I don’t want to be that at all.

Most of my sales emails go out with my Friday Freebie…it’s that jab jab jab and right hook by Vaynerchuck.

I started building relationships with bigger bloggers and authors. One thing I did was invite them on my podcast to talk about their book, blog, etc., and that’s the jab for them. The thing about an affiliate is it’s a jab for both. You’re asking them to promote it on their blog, but they’re getting, what, 50% of this.

I’ve only reached out to two bigger bloggers, but that how most of my sales have come in since my initial launch.

Q: Do you any stats on how fast you grew and what your growth looks like now?
A: The first month was right around 11,000 dollars, and that’s pretty quick growth right there. Within the first weekend, it was close to 5,000 to 6,000 dollars.

It was great. This was all just an experiment: Should I use Teachable? How easy will it be? Can I sell a course?

We’ll keep doing it for sure. And actually, what I’m doing today is making slides for new videos. I really want to build out a bigger course and this is an easy way to do it.

Now, we’re at 16,000 dollars in a month and a half, 6 weeks out. I haven’t pulled in emails from Teachable into Mailchimp, but we’re getting more people interested in our content that are willing to pay. We’ve not had a single person ask for a refund.

Q: How much was your initial time and cost investment?
A: It wasn’t a huge time investment for me because a lot of the content for my course was the podcast. I took that audio and uploaded it into Teachable. The design of it wasn’t much, just a Powerpoint slide and I designed some freebies from the videos. So the initial time investment wasn’t massive, not counting all of the audio because that’s used in other places, but maybe 5 to 6 hours.

As far as costs, payment to my buddy was $1,500 dollars. And for the paid ads for Facebook, that’s building the general list and that’s not all directly related to course, but I spent a couple hundred dollars a month. Costs also depend if we’re launching something, like an app….

Q: How was the ROI on Facebook Ads? Could you have done it another way?
A: ROI was great. It’s hard to get people to give their email on a podcast. They listen in their car and don’t think about signing up. With Facebook ads, I can get an email for 10-25 cents per piece. That’s pretty good.

From giving out the good freebies, I get good signups too.

Q: We hear a common fear that people feel like they’re not an authority and like they shouldn’t be teaching, or that they’re worried to put themselves out there. How did you wrestle with that?
A: That was a big fear of mine…One thing that you don’t realize when you know something, is how much you do know. What I’ve found with students is how little they really know. When you learn for the first time you know so little that once you gain some knowledge it’s amazing.

It was a huge fear of mine, it was a huge risk for me to put myself out there.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you have for other people creating courses?
A: The biggest thing is that people want solutions to their problems. If there is something you’re passionate about and have just a little bit of knowledge about, you know more than a beginner. If you can provide cheat sheets and solutions, they’ll pay you for it and consider you a hero and lifesaver.

That feels really good and having people say you changed their life or improved it in some way, well that feels really good too. Teaching is a way to do that.

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Ashley Hockney

Written by Ashley Hockney

Ashley Hockney is the Content Marketer & Writer at Teachable (Create & Sell Online Courses). Her knowledge spans both the marketing and literary fields. Her background is in food & beverage PR i.e. she wants to talk to you about single malts.